Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Hear then the parable of the sower

This is one of the few occasions in the gospel where Jesus explains his teaching in parables.
He has just told the Parable of the Sower.

They ask him:
‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’
He answered,
‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven,
but to them it has not been given.
The reason I speak to them in parables is that
“seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” 

The parables give and demand at the same time.
They are a way of teaching that demands thought and prayer.
They aren’t rational or didactic.
They aren’t little moral lessons like Aesops’s fables, although they can seem like them on first hearing.

To me, the parables are always slightly out of reach.
When I think I have them sorted out, in my grasp, another thought comes and changes the dynamic.

So with today’s parable.
There would not seem to be any real reason to explain it. Jesus has done that for us.

‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 
Some seeds fall on the path and are eaten by birds.
Jesus tells us that this is what happens when someone hears but does not understand.

Other seeds fell on rocky ground, the soil is shallow, they spring up quickly, but don’t take root. They wither in the sun.
These are new converts who are initially filled with excitement, but fall away when theings get tough.

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
The thorns represent the things of the world: money, power, buracracy.
These things stop the word from growing and kill it.

Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain,
some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

“This is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields,
in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

So, on the surface we have 4 situations shown. The odds are 3-1 of success. Not the greatest odds.

We all know these situations.
We have all seen seeds thrown on the path, the word of God going out and no one hearing or getting it.
We have all seen new converts, filled with joy, only to lose their way when the joy subsides and life gets real again.
We have all seen the world strangle the word. The church is very good at doing this to itself.
Every time we talk about something that is not the gospel, it is a little thorn growing up.

Those are the 3 in the 3-1 odds.

The 1 is where it comes together.
We all hope that we are that good soil that the seed can grow in. Presumably we are.

Many of you are gardeners.
You know what you need to do to get plants growing.
You till the soil, you fertilise it, you water it, you put the plants in the right place for shade, all that stuff.

Think of yourself in the same way.
What do you need to do to be able to receive God’s word so that it can grow and yield plants.
Prayer, receiving Holy Communion, reading the scriptures, confessing your sins.
Good fertile soil.
Gods word can grow and yield grain that can then grow and create more seed and on it goes.

The danger of looking at the parable as 'different kinds of soil equals different kinds of people responding to God' is that is makes it a story of division.

Maybe we need to look at it differently.
Instead of being about different people, it is actually about ourselves.

There are times when we are rocky ground, or a path, or thorny.
There are times when we don’t get it, when we give up, or distracted by the world.
Yet, God keeps sowing.
He doesn’t give up on us.

Note Jesus’ introduction:
Hear then the parable of the sower.
The parable is not really about the soil, it is about the one who sows:
Who is the sower?
The sower is God.

From Isaiah:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
   and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
   giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
   it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
   and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 

But look at the actions of the sower:

He drops seed, he throws it on rocks, he throws it on stony areas, he throws it on good soil.
That is not a good use of resources, it is a bad business plan. It seems like a waste.

But that is looking at things in the way of flesh, not of the spirit.

As Paul tells us:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh,
but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 
The way of looking at this in the way of the spirit is that of God’s generosity.
God’s word goes everywhere.

God doesn’t stop because people don’t understand or give up or get distracted.
God doesn’t stop because we don’t understand or give up or get distracted.

God keeps sowing his word regardless of the condition of the soil.
He isn’t stingy, he isn’t judgemental, or practical.
He keeps sowing for eternity, sowing the whole of his creation with his word.

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